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The Riley Guide

The Riley Guide: Resumes & Cover Letters or
How to Job Search

Prepare Your Resume for Email
and Online Posting


The Internet-Ready Resume

Job Listings

what
job title, keywords
where
city, state, zip
jobs by job search

Many people still think the resume you put online is not the same document that you created to print out and mail to prospective employers or hand to interviewers. This is untrue. You do not need a different resume, you only need to alter the format of your resume to make it easy for you to post, copy and paste, or email it to employers.

When done correctly, your well-written, well-prepared resume will contain all of the necessary keywords to attract attention whether it is being scanned into a resume system, indexed and searched online, or read on paper by a real human.

Resume Versions to Prepare

Job search experts recommend you keep duplicates of your resume in each of these versions or formats.
  1. A Print Version, designed with bulleted lists, italicized text, and other highlights, ready to print and mail or hand to potential contacts and interviewers.
  2. A Scannable Version, a less-designed version without the fancy design highlights. Bulleted lists are fine, but that's about the limit.
  3. A Plain Text Version, a plain text file ready to copy and paste into online forms or post in online resume databases. This might also be referred to as a Text-Only copy.
  4. An E-mail Version, another plain text copy, but this one is specifically formatted for the length-of-line restrictions in e-mail. This is also a Text-Only copy.
This is the same document presented in four ways, each formatted for a specific delivery purpose.

Why Plain Text?

You could just use the forms most databases provide to build your resume in their system, but resume expert and author Susan Ireland doesn't recommend you do this for several reasons.
  1. Spell-check: Preparing your resume in advance using your own word processing program allows you to spell-check your resume and revise it as needed until you are happy with it.
  2. Format: Most online forms and builders insist on a chronological resume, which focuses on work history. Career changers who would prefer a functional resume with its emphasis on skills will be at a disadvantage.
  3. Reusability: If you build it in their database using their form, you've done a lot of work for only one site, which means you will have to repeat your effort for every database you encounter. That's a lot of typing! Prepare it in advance on your own computer and you have it to use as much as you like.

We have instructions on converting your Word document to 2 different Plain Text documents suitable for pasting in to email and posting in databases.

What About an HTML Version?

Many job seekers are creating "webbed" resumes in the hopes of being discovered or as a place to refer an employer who might want to see more than what is usually found in a resume. An HTML version of your resume works particularly well for persons in the visual arts or programming, but it could serve anyone, provided it is done right and for the right reasons.
  • Doing it right means starting with a basic HTML version of your designed resume, not an overloaded page of Shockwave and Java effects, huge graphics, and audio files that takes more than 2 minutes to download on your DSL line and blasts out your computer speakers.
  • Doing it for the right reasons means turning your resume into a portfolio, complete with links to former employers or projects already publicly available online. Be sure you are not violating any copyright or confidentiality clauses by putting information online without prior approval.
The biggest problem with HTML resumes is TMI - "too much information". Many people make their resumes part of their personal web site, loading it where there is all kinds of information an employer does not need to know before you are hired, like your marital status, ethnic background, religious affiliations, personal interests, past or present health problems, and much more. Allowing an employer to learn so much about you can lead to potential discrimination problems that you may never be aware of for the way you look, your political or religious beliefs or any number of other reasons.

I know some career management professionals advocate the use of photos plus personal biographies for executive clients, stating this is the same information you would find in an executive bio released by the company for publicity purposes. However, I still urge job seekers to be both conservative and conscientious about what you are telling prospective employers before you actually get called into an interview.

Always remember, your resume presents the image you want employers to see. For this reason, it is important that you keep your presence entirely professional, never linking your resume to any personal information. If you decide to add an HTML resume to your campaign, post it in a location separate from your personal web site, and do not link between the two.

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Rules for Responding Online

The fastest way to respond to Internet job listings is to e-mail your cover letter and resume to the person or organization indicated. However, there are some simple rules to follow before hitting the "send" key.

Look at it this way. You have 15 or 20 seconds to get someone's attention using email. In that time, you must convince the recipient to
  • open your email
  • read your message
  • not delete your email
Do it wrong, get into the wrong mail box, or make someone's job harder, and the best resume in the world from the most qualified person in the world will be trashed.
Getting your email opened, read, and actually considered really comes down to some simple rules.
  1. Use the right Subject. "Seeking employment" is not an acceptable subject. If you are responding to an advertisement, use the job title or job code cited in the advertisement to make it easy for your e-mail to be recognized and routed to the appropriate person. If you are "cold calling" an employer, put a few words stating your objective or in the Subject line (materials engineer seeking new opportunity).

  2. Include a cover letter in your email and address it to the recipient. "Here's my resume, please tell me if you have any jobs I might fill" is not a cover letter and does not encourage anyone to look at your resume. Whether or not you are responding to an advertised opening, the cover letter will introduce you, specify how you meet the needs of the employer, and will encourage the recipient to read your full resume.

  3. Always send your resume in the body of the e-mail message, not as an attachment. Force someone to open an attachment just to get to know you and your 20 seconds are over before they even start. Put that resume right in the message so the recipient will see it as soon as he or she opens the message. This technique also helps you get through e-mail systems that reject all attachments in this day of rampant computer viruses.

  4. Make sure your resume is properly formatted for e-mail. Plain text resumes not formatted for email can be unreadable, and unreadable resumes will most likely be deleted. Take the time to make sure it will look as good on all computers and in all email systems as it does on your screen. This means shorter text lines, spacing between sections, and text-based highlights.

  5. If responding to an advertisement, read the application instructions and follow them. Failing to follow application instructions not only delays your resume, it labels you as someone who doesn't take direction well. It's the Trash bin for you. They might specify an email address and job code to use. They might even actually ask you to send your resume as a Word attachment. Whatever they want, you do.
Always remember: It only takes a second for someone to delete an e-mail message. Don't give them a reason to trash you! Think before you respond!

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Posting your Resume: Placement vs. Privacy

Staying Cyber-Safe

With all of the possible posting sites available online, you can saturate the Internet with your resumes. Is this a good thing? There are two issues to consider when posting your resume online.

  1. Placement: where should you post it?
  2. Privacy: how public do you want it to be?
What's the problem? The more exposure you get, the better, right? Not necessarily.
Recruiters get tired of finding the same resumes for the same people in every database they search. If you get labeled a "resume spammer," you won't be considered for job openings they are working to fill. Also, the farther your resume spreads, the less control you have over it and the more likely it is to be discovered by someone you had hoped wouldn't see it, like your current employer. And yes, people do get fired.

Some problems can be avoided by merely limiting where you post your resume (Placement), others by limiting the information in your posted resume (Privacy), but the two issues must be addressed hand-in-hand. It is possible to be visible but private online, but how visible you want to be vs. how comfortable you are in public is a question only you can answer.

Staying Cyber-Safe

Limiting your posting is a good way to protect your privacy, but it is also important to select those few sites with care. Susan Joyce, author of Job-Hunt.org, encourages job seekers to carefully evaluate the job sites used and to be aware of the information presented in the resume. The following tips include information excerpted from her articles on Choosing a Job Site and Your Cyber-Safe Resume. This information was used with her permission. I highly recommend a visit to her site to read the full articles.

  1. Limit where you post. Post your resume in the databases of only one or two large popular job sites. At the same time, post it in the databases of one or two smaller job sites targeted to your specific industry, occupational group, or geographic location. This will give you both "maximum exposure" (many employers crossing industries and regions) and "targeted exposure" (employers looking for a smaller yet more highly qualified candidate pool.)

  2. Read Privacy Policies. Note what personal or "individually identifiable" information they will collect, how it may be handled, and whether or not they reserve the right to sell it. Some sites are good and promise to never sell your info, but others reserve the right to sell your personally identifiable information to third parties.

  3. Avoid sites that force you to register a full profile (i.e., your resume) before you can do any search of the job database. You should be allowed to evaluate a site to make sure it's a good fit to you before adding your information to their database.

  4. Avoid sites that offer to "blast" your resume. Such wide distribution may offer little, if any, control on where a copy of your resume could end up.

  5. Limit access to your personal contact information. Options range from blocking access to just the contact information to keeping your resume completely out of the database searched by employers. Choose the option that works best for you. Remember that if you go for full confidentiality, it may be up to you to remember to delete contact info from your resume. Many job seekers trip up here because they fill out a form with their contact info, then cut and paste the whole resume into the box, forgetting about the contact info here. The database's protection of your contact info only refers to what you put in the form, not in the box.

  6. Modify the contact information you put on your resume. Remove all standard "contact information" -- name, address, phone numbers -- and replace your personal e-mail address with an e-mail address set up specifically for your job search. This is where those services like Yahoo! email come into play. Make sure you use an appropriate e-mail name like MEngineer@Yahoo.com. Names like "JustLooking@Yahoo.com" or "DumbBlond@HotMail.com" are not good names for serious job seekers.

  7. Modify your employment history. Remove all dates from your resume. Then, remove the names of all employers and replace them with accurate but generic descriptions. "Nuts n' Bolts Distributors, Inc." becomes "a small construction supplies distribution company" and "IBM" becomes "a multinational information technology company." If your job title is unique, replace it with an accurate but generic title, so "New England Regional Gadget Marketing Director" becomes "multi-state marketing manager of gadget-class products."

  8. Don't let your resume sit there. Since many databases sort resumes by date of submission with the newest first, renew your resume every 14 days. If you don't get any response to your resume within 45 days of posting, remove it from that location and post it elsewhere. It could be that employers are not looking for people with your skills in this particular database, but it could also be that there is too much competition between candidates with the same skills and your resume is not rising to the top.

  9. When your job search is over, delete all resumes out there. Do not continue to "dangle the hook" and see what offers may come up. Your new employer may find you still fishing and demand an explanation. Some people are adding a "posted DATE" on the bottom of resumes they register online, but you will still have a tremendous amount of explaining to do if your resume is found to still be circulating. Whether or not you were planning a fast exit, you may find yourself on the way out the door.

Always remember that most job sites make their money by selling access to the resume database! Many want you to post your resume in their database, but few really work for you. When it comes to posting your resume, You Rule. Be choosy.

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Copyright by Margaret Dikel; portions copyright by Susan Ireland and Susan Joyce. Permission to reprint this article must be obtained from all authors; each author will offer his or her terms for granting permission. Please read the complete copyright statement for additional information.